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BC Hydro gets green light on bioenergy projects

The British Columbia Utilities Commission has given BC Hydro the green light to sign off on four bioenergy projects throughout the province, BC Hydro announced today.

The four projects will create a combined total of 579 gigawatt hours of energy, or enough to power 52,000 homes in BC.

“It’s not an insignificant amount,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Susan Danard.

Each of the projects are part of phase one of BC Hydro's Bioenergy Call for Power, which put out the call for companies with existing tenure and facilities able to start producing low-risk projects within a few weeks of being passed.

“We didn’t want to wait. We said, let’s start buying that energy immediately,” said Danard.

Three of the projects are in existing pulp mills.

In Prince George, Canfor Pulp Ltd. Partnership will be burning residual wood from the mill, or pine beetle affected wood that is not commercially viable. Domtar Pulp and Paper Products Inc. in Kamloops has invested in steam condensers, and Castlegar’s Zellstoff Celgar Ltd. Partnership will install a condensing turbine that will help generate 238 gigawatt hours of energy by 2010.

The fourth project will be built from scratch in Prince George. It will produce charcoal and generate energy while burning the wood.

Danard said that BC Hydro is attracted to the bioenergy projects because, unlike wind and solar power, they are not reliant on climate conditions.

“It’s firm, it’s reliable, it’s available year round,” she said.

Now that phase one projects have been approved by the utilities commission, BC Hydro is targeting a further 1000 gigawatt hours in 2010 from projects in its phase two plan which will go beyond companies with existing forest biomass resources, and be more “future oriented”.

Some bids so far include energy from crops, aquatic plants, and manure.

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee.

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